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Marc Eliot’s 'Art of Film' series returns to the Peoria Riverfront museum with the funniest movies ever made

Marc Eliot
Holden Kellogg
Marc Eliot, author, film scholar and Peoria Riverfront Museum film curator.

The “Art of Film” series at the Peoria Riverfront Museum returns with a new cycle of selected films, focusing this time on the genre of comedy.

Author, film scholar and riverfront museum film curator Marc Eliot presented a selection of various comedy films as part of a film festival to kick off the cycle’s first weekend. The festival included live introductions and post-film discussions for every film.

One night of the festival included a pre-show dinner event for the showing of Alexander Payne’s 2004 movie “Sideways,” which featured a specially-themed menu, inspired by the film’s setting in the Santa Barbara wine country of California.

Eliot chose to present the genre of comedy for this film cycle to show that comedy in film is more than just situational comedies or formulaic, one joke per minute stories. Eliot instead selected films that show stories about the protagonist’s perseverance over life’s obstacles. He explains this through an example of how the ancient Greeks viewed the difference between comedy and tragedy.

“When a man slips on a banana peel, gets up, and brushes himself off, and walks away, we laugh. That’s comedy,” Eliot said, illustrating how a small difference can change the genre and nature of a story, “but when a man slips on the peel and dies, that’s tragedy.”

Eliot said that this cycle’s selection of films are meant to challenge the audience with stories that showcase characters overcoming dilemmas. Eliot also chose the films to show their links to each other, an example being the showing of two Laurel and Hardy films. Eliot ties these films to the revered comedic actor Charlie Chaplin, and how Stan Laurel worked with Chaplin as a stand-in and assistant writer.

"We’ve now established that the ‘Art of Film’ brings movies to Peoria, that people don't otherwise have much of a chance to see.”

Eliot also selected the films for this cycle to give audiences a chance to see movies that the audience of central Illinois would not normally get an opportunity to watch, but also present movies that they may not actively seek out. Eliot said that this was the original intent when the “Art of Film” series was started around 4 years ago, growing a partnership between Eliot and Peoria Riverfront Museum President and CEO John Morris.

“Every decent museum has a film program, a film is an art form, and needs to be recognized as an art form, and not as escapist thing you do on Saturday matinees or on date night,” Eliot said, recounting his initial conversations with Morris about creating the film series, “but we’ve now established that the ‘Art of Film’ brings movies to Peoria, that people don't otherwise have much of a chance to see.”

The Peoria audience has shown support for the film series, showing up for films that weren’t expected to receive large viewing audiences.

"It proved that there is a hunger, a desire, for people to see great movies.”

“We once showed two classic French new wave films, ‘Breathless’ and ‘The 400 Blows,’ and some people were saying ‘nobody’s gonna want to see those,’ they’re in French and they're older films,” Eliot said, showing how Peoria audiences responded to the film series, “we had huge houses for both of them, and it proved that there is a hunger, a desire, for people to see great movies.”

The film series continues until November 19th, with film showings at the Peoria Riverfront Museum’s giant screen theater every weekend, featuring virtual, pre-film introductions and post-film discussions. Tickets and info can be found at the Peoria Riverfront Museum’s website.

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Holden Kellogg is an audio producer at WCBU.